Exploring Meaning – Multifaith climate change workshop proposal

‘Climate Change and its Meaning’

A Multi-faith Workshop Proposal


 In his book “The Great Work”, Thomas Berry captures a succinct image of our current human and planet situation, by highlighting the peril and the opportunity our times. The opportunity is to undertake this Great Work and transform our human way of operating into, as Berry puts it, “a viable mode of human-functioning within the planetary process.” The aim is to bring the planet back to a viable mode.

This peril of our current situation refers to climate change, species extinction, land and ocean degradation and so on. We are aware of the human factors that are contributing to the shift in the planets very operation. We were aiming for ‘progress’. We have produced wellbeing for many, though not for all. And unintentionally we have created undesirable results. The opportunity to undertake the Great Work is encouraging to look at: we see a wholesome attitude towards the earth, social enterprise, renewable energy, knowledge to care for the land, ecological economics, citizen empowerment, the list goes on and on.

The Great Work consists of applying what we already know into practice and creating the innovations that we need. Then, we might ask, what is our capability to put this Great Work into action?

How can we feel confident in our ability to effect change, when we are overwhelmed by the scope of the task, causing us to ignore the issue, sweeping it under the carpet altogether?

In order to transform destablising fear into action, we can choose to work up our resolve, take responsibility and be firm in our convictions. We can choose to collaborate and pool our resources in order to tackle the seemingly insurmountable issue of climate change. The only requirement for beginning this journey is being human. We have in our human nature all the capabilities that are required to succeed. We already bring these existing capabilities forth and compose our spirit, mind and will to produce a symphony of a good life. Equally we can compose those capabilities into addressing the Great Work and climate change. That is our choice!

Meaning – A Missing Piece in Attending to Climate Change

 Stepping out of the big picture of the Great Work into the here and now of climate change, what steps can we take to attend to climate change? Attending to climate change is a choice and a journey: a choice to explore the issue, and a choice to take a step in the journey.

// Firstly, is the preparation of a foundation of capability. That is, a composition of our spirit, heart, mind and will, as the foundation that enables whole system harmonious action.

// Secondly, the choice of engagement with action: getting on with the Great Work and addressing climate change in all its aspects.

Often enough, it seems that climate education is regarded as sufficient to evoke action. But, is education enough of a foundation by itself? There is more to it than just education! Exploring our unique interpretations of climate change is proposed to be a significant part of coming to grips with climate change in our life. This will allow us to clarify what climate change means to us personally and as a community.

This exploration may lead us to go on further in building a foundation of capability or to take a next step in action. At the very least it will allow us to see what climate change means to others and give us a shared understanding of our community sense of climate change.

 This workshop

 This workshop offers opportunity to participate with others to come to grips with the meaning of climate change. We all stand equal with having our own meaning about climate change. This workshop maintains respect for each person’s meaning.

To start off with, the workshop will offer safe harbour. This section is meant take the sting out of the fear of climate change by creating an atmosphere of hopefulness. It will portray the means that are at hand to address the issue, such as the uptake of renewable energy, the millions of people and groups who are working on the issue, the corporations who are behaving differently, right now.

The workshop will then ask ’what does climate change mean to us’? This will be done in two sections:

// Firstly, by asking ‘what does the peril or danger of climate change mean to me’?

// Secondly, by asking ‘what does the opportunity of addressing climate change mean to me’?

We would hear from our faith leaders to hear what it means to them personally, and we would hear from a climate scientist as to what this means to them personally. The leaders speaking in this way will give us a model and an understanding of what speaking about our own meaning is. We will explore what it means to each of us individually. We will then share that meaning with another, one on one, or not.

We will also share that meaning as a group so that we can see ourselves as a group. We would write a sentence or a few words that summarise our own meaning. On the night this input would be displayed as a word cloud, which will show the commonality of meanings. People will then see that they are not alone in their meanings. They will see that in our diversity there is a commonality.

The final part is to contemplate a growth step. At the close of the workshop we will propose ongoing activities to gather and work collectively. This could be ‘climate change 101’ sessions where people learn more about the facts of global warming and gain an insight into our psychological response. This could be ‘getting on with it’ ranging from community groups that foster changes in daily life to global initiatives that facilitate change.


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